Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A Development Agenda

Apologies for vanishing abruptly over the past couple of weeks, but I have HP to thank for that. Yes, Hewlett Packard, whose inept service center in Cochin has ensured that I have been without a laptop for the rather vexing reason of a missing mother-board.

Having secured BVN's laptop, let me put down my thoughts from the first meeting with Dr. Shashi Tharoor. A bit late in the day I agree, but better late than....blah blah!

The intervening weeks have misted over a lot of the details, so I will restrict myself to the main points.

The meeting kicked off with introductions which turned up a glittering list of Trivandrum's prominent citizens including various CEOs, retired top civil servants, socialites, technocrats and four members of TDF, including yours truely.

The proceedings then moved on to a round of feedback from each attendee. I had expected 95% of the points to be complaints and I was not wrong by much, since the vast majority of points raised were things beyond the sphere of an MP of Trivandrum, from reducing the height of speed-breakers to a new Security Act for the North-East! One of the senior businessmen also came up with the rather novel idea that funds for developmental projects could be raised by nationalising the gold hoard of Kerala, a thought certain to send chills down the spines of Alukkas, Bhima, Josco and their ilk! Fortunately, someone finally pointed out the fact that we had all gathered there to identify the components of a development agenda for Dr. Tharoor and not to bellyache about bumpiness of roads.

The discussion then proceeded in a much more constructive manner and a list of major developmental issues was drawn up:

  1. Railway Development
  2. Vizhinjam Container Transshipment Terminal and Shipyard
  3. Expediting the upgradation of the National Highways
  5. Development of a knowledge economy
  6. City Twinning
  7. Development of the International Airport
  8. Inland Waterway development
  9. Urban Transport
  10. High Court Bench
Dr. Tharoor was very receptive about the issues and made it clear that development was uppermost in his agenda. And he has continued to make that clear even after leaving the boundaries of his constituencies. Everyone at the meeting was pretty sure that a Ministry would coming winging its way into his lap, so the discussion then turned to how he would continue to maintain a presence in Trivandrum as well as active interaction with his constituents.

His solution was rather neat. An office manned by a professional staff would be maintained in Trivandrum while representatives (a retired Government employee or school teacher) would be engaged in each Assembly constituency in Trivandrum to whom ordinary folk could submit their requests and complaints. This would solve the difficulty usually faced by the common man in finding and getting to their elected representative. While it sounds quite akin to the Washington-style of maintaining offices staffed by interns, I believe it could actually work and is a sign that our democracy is evolving.

Dr. Tharoor had another interesting concept in mind. A vehicle to implement many of the intiatives that are needed for Trivandrum. The usual MP's team consists of a heavy compliment of partymen which puts off not just people of any other political orientation but the major section of the population which prefers to shun any open political linkage. This MP wants to create a bi-partisan agglomeration of concerned citizens to work for Trivandrum. One idea which was floated was to establish a trust which could seek donations and implement developmental initiatives. Such a neutral body could easily attract talent from all walks of life and all political affiliations.

The underlying idea is that a united movement of citizens should be created to foster development in Trivandrum. A celebrity MP and Union Minister like Dr Tharoor can facilitate this movement, he cannot be the sole driver. The reason is simple, people like you and me have the best knowledge for the job and the strongest responsibility. Dr. Tharoor can make our case in Delhi - "thump on a few desks" as he likes to put it - or to investors across the globe. If we choose to believe that our responsibility ends at the voting booth, it will be a very uphill task indeed. We have been given a superb opportunity to step up on the global stage, I am sure we will all makes sure it is not wasted.

And if one thing can be said about this MP, it is that this is not the last we are going to see of him for the next five years!


  1. I'm getting more and more convinced about this man.He is honest, humble, knowledgable and efficient..It says, winners dont do different things, they do things differently and boy! havn't we one who knows to do things well??!!

    Its a good and encouraging start to the tenure Ajay, and well begun is at least half done :) Keeping the idioms out of way, Im really impressed by the idea of Dr. Tharoor. TDF is sure to get involved like never before, and if things start getting brighter then Im afraid its going to be VERY VERY VERY bad news for your old friends, the Communists. ;) Tharoor may remain Tvm MP for the next say 25 years? :)))

    Wonder what those Tharoor sceptics will have to say...

    Kudos, and good luck!

  2. Dr.Tharoor's ideas are clever and workable. It seems we would have a good 5 years ahead of us!

  3. hey.. gr8 going!! hope vrything works out well..One clarification is..what is meant by "development of knowledge economy"? and what good does "city twinning" do for tvm? My apologies if I'm being ignorant! If you wont reply- i'd google and find out :)

  4. I hope you see this before you go to Messr.s Page and Brin!

    Trivandrum is superbly poised to benefit from a cluster of educational, R&D and service sector institutions built up over the last sixty years. This includes the likes of CET, VSSC and C-DAC as well as IISER, IISST and of course, Technopark. Together these constitute the "knowledge economy" where the main raw material, the main product and the main currency is information. Trivandrum economic future depends on this sector since we don't have the circumstances to develop heavy industries or any other primary or secondary sector industries.

    Twinning with a suitable city opens avenues not just to attract investment and tourism, but also help us to learn from their experiences along the path of urban development as well leverage skills and resources in related fields. For this to be successful, it is critical to identify and twin with a city which has similarities to Trivandrum in terms of location, socio-economic makeup and so on.

    In a previous post, Susan had suggested her hometown of Victoria in British Columbia because of a number of relevant similarities with Trivandrum.

    How does that sound? Cheers!


Thanks for your comment, I will take a look at it and put it up at the earliest.